A few weeks ago, one would figure that the weekend series against the Texas Rangers in late August would be about Elvis Night, the Civil Rights Game, Family Sunday, and the returns of AJ Pierzynski, Alex Rios, and Neal Cotts.
Who would have thought the Sox would actually win the series too?
Whether it’s an apocalyptic sign or the team finally playing to the level we all expected them to back in Spring Training, the White Sox took two of three from the AL West-leading Rangers and have now won eight out of the last nine games.
Also, make that four-straight series victories, as the Sox have taken sets against the Rangers, Royals, Twins, and Tigers. That span includes a 10-3 record, and three of those four teams are in the playoff picture.
It was an impressive series for the White Sox on a couple of different fronts. First, the team was able to bounce back and win two close ballgames after getting shellacked on Friday night, with Rangers hitting five homeruns against ace Chris Sale and the Sox bullpen.
We typically see that kind of loss for the Sox turn into three or four straight, but the Sox came right back the next night to win in dramatic fashion on a Josh Phegley walk-off single. Phegley carried that over into Sunday, hitting a home run in a 5-2 victory. While the backstop has only hit .218 on the season, he has 16 RBI in 124 at-bats compared to Tyler Flowers’ 23 in 252. Yeah, it’s safe to say that catching “competition” is over.
While Sale’s outing was pretty horrific, we saw two very positive outings from Hector Santiago and John Danks. However, they were both for different reasons.
Santiago had nowhere near his best stuff or control, but still managed to give the team a quality start. Danks, on the other hand, continues to look stronger and stronger stuff and command wise. Both games are steps forward because we’ve been waiting for Santiago to have that kind of gritty outing, as when his command leaves him like it did on Saturday, his night doesn’t typically end well. For Danks, it’s just another sign that he’s getting closer to the form he was at when the Sox decided to give him the huge contract.
In addition, the bullpen was also very strong on Saturday and Sunday. Donnie Veal, Nate Jones, and Matt Lindstrom all were successful, and “Automatic Addison” recorded yet another save (although he had two days to breathe this time).
It was a terrific weekend of baseball on the Southside, but as mentioned in the first paragraph in this piece, there was a lot more that went into it. First off, we had AJ Pierzynski, Alex Rios, and Neal Cotts all return to U.S. Cellular Field as visitors for the first time since leaving the White Sox. Obviously, AJ received the biggest ovation, getting loud rounds of applause all series as well as a video tribute. Rios was greeted with mostly cheers as well, and Cotts received a nice round of applause when he appeared to toss a scoreless frame in Saturday night’s contest.
Aside from the returns, we saw two promotions that came with anticipation. Friday night was the park’s “Elvis Night,” which has always been one of the team’s biggest attendance days of the season. This season was no different, as 31,891 were on hand to watch some baseball, an Elvis impersonator, skydivers, and fireworks. Just like on Elvis Night in 2011, the Rangers and their own Elvis (Andrus) took it to the White Sox.
Saturday night was the MLB’s Civil Rights Game, as many prominent figures were on hand to celebrate baseball and the Civil Rights Movement. Legendary music artist Aretha Franklin and ex-Sox player Bo Jackson were presented with special awards for their contributions in the community, while Minnie Minoso, Hank Aaron, Billy Williams, Frank Robinson, and Commissioner Bud Selig were in attendance.
Last, but not least, we saw something pretty rare in the game of baseball on Sunday: a coach getting ejected before the game even began. During the pre-game meeting at home plate with the umpires, it appeared as if Sox Bench Coach Mark Parent was arguing a call from the night before (Alexei Ramirez being called out at home plate, which replays clearly showed was a blown call). Parent was tossed before the meeting even ended.
It certainly was an interesting weekend of baseball, and while it begs the question “where has this been all season long,” it’s fun to see this team playing well again regardless. For those of you who were pulling for the White Sox to tank to get the first pick in the draft next year, that seems highly unlikely, as the Sox are now 11 games ahead of the MLB-worst Houston Astros in the standings. Those same Astros come into The Cell for a three-game set starting tomorrow night.